Belfast Telegraph

'Baghdad just like Belfast in Troubles'
Blair's claim on tactics to quell Iraqi insurgents

By Brian Walker, London Editor
08 February 2005

Tony Blair has compared defeating insurgents in Iraq with dealing with the IRA at the height of the Troubles.

Facing a two-and-a-half hour grilling from senior MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee, he pledged that British and American troops would remain in Iraq "as long as is needed".

He held out little hope of an early pull-out, despite the success of the recent Iraqi elections, when 59% of the adult population voted.

The new Iraqi government which will emerge in a couple of week's time would be sovereign, he said.

"My own view is that there is a need for a multinational force to remain for as long as the new Iraqi forces are not capable, but their capability is building all the time."

The US are preparing a phased withdrawal plan for troops that could be published soon.

Insurgents were not particularly numerous, Mr Blair said.

"But people are prepared to be suicide bombers. And as we know to our cost at the height of the Irish troubles - I don't know how many people the IRA had - with everything we had, it was extremely difficult to deal with them."

"We have to build on the election very quickly with the security forces, reaching out to the (minority) Sunni community with a reconciliation plan. Since the elections, the insurgents must realise they've got no public support."

In a wide-ranging session the Prime Minister said he was "reasonably optimistic" about the prospects for UK economic growth.

Making the inevitable pre-election pledge that tax rates will not rise, he rejected predictions from think-tanks that a tax hike was inevitable after the election.

On climate change Mr Blair held out hopes that the US was ready to "enter into dialogue" over cutting its carbon emissions as the world's greatest polluter, "but let's be blunt, not about Kyoto, they're not shifting on that."

It wasn't sensible yet to go into details about new negotiations with the Americans yet.

"But if you look at individual US states and senators, there is a changing debate to make use of, that would achieve greater consensus."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?